The Research Practice Gap: Why is Evidence-based Practice so Hard to Achieve.

There’s has been some recent articles in the social science literature (nursing, education, management, HR, etc. ) about Evidence-based practice (EBP) or the research practice gap that exists in very many fields.  Why is EBP so difficult to achieve and why do so many solution articles leave me so underwhelmed.  I will offer a reason for the difficulties that I have not yet heard in a convincing manner.

Problem: Using research across different practices is basically the same problem as the transfer of learning or knowledge across contexts.

Reason for the problem: it takes work. Knowledge is closely tied to the contexts of production.  There may be theories and prior research that are applicable to a specific practice, but it takes work to contextualize that knowledge, see its applicability to specific contexts, and change the resulting practice.  What is that work:

  • Establishing a broad practitioner knowledge-base in order to know that the applicable theories and knowledge exist.
  • Knowing how the existing problem or practice can be reframed or re-understood in the light of this new knowledge.  It’s not just using knowledge in a new context, it is re-producing that knowledge or sometimes producing knowledge that is unique to that context.
  • Making changes and dealing with side problems common in change management.
  • Developing a feedback methodology for evaluating and adjusting practice changes

Solution;  we need practitioners with better skills and better tools:

  • A larger knowledge-base and a better network (or community of practice) that allows practitioners to tap into the cognition distributed across practitioner networks. In someways practitioners, because they need to be generalist, need a larger knowledge-base than do researchers who can restrict themselves to specialty areas.
  • Skills in problem framing:  re-conextualizing knowledge, hypothesis generation and testing, setting up experimental and other feedback methodology
  • Skills in communication and change management.  Understanding what to do is one thing, understanding how to get it done is another thing entirely.

Better tools. Many article speak like there is broad consensus on what practitioners should do like that consensus already exists.  That does not seem like the paradigmatically defined world of science that I know.  I think there is hard work yet to be done in writing practice standards and guidelines for best practices in most areas.  They are important however, as standards will form the basis for practitioners to be able to create measurement tools to measure how their practices are conforming, creating a deep understanding of their practice.  A measurement tool will also provide a practice compliancy pathway for changing practice.

A New Business Model for Higher Education

I have a larger than normal amount of posts because I’m doing spring cleaning, getting some stuff off my hard drive and into the cloud.  Here’s one

A Meme that has interested me for sometime is that universities should be more like businesses and businesses should be more like universities.  As Susanne Lohmann points out (2004 in Economics of Governance, Vol. 5, 9-27), this is more complex than it might seem on the surface.   But I want to focus not on the past, but on new evolving pressures for change.

  • Situation#1 – Workers need to be involved in continuous learning. The old model that you go to university from 18-22, and then work from 22 – 65 will not work anymore.  The learning community that universities are so good at fostering needs to continue lifelong.  Universities can not continue to ignore alumni (except in regard to charity) and businesses need a model that engages universities and businesses on an ongoing basis.
  • Situation #2 Competitive advantage is now in brains, not brawn. Neither universities, nor businesses can afford to hire all the brains that they will need.  Social media is one response to this problem, but I believe we also need to find more direct engagement.
  • Response Targeted Knowledge Revenue Streams. This idea came to me while reading a HBR article, although I can’t remember which one.  In addition to students, universities should target the development of courses and ed services to the specific needs of businesses. Alumni can be brought into a closer relationship to the university through their use in marketing.  Not only will the alumni’s businesses benefit, alumni will be involved in a more substantial way  as continuing learners and scholars will have a deeper understanding of the knowledge needs of businesses.  This understanding in-turn can be incorporated into regular course improvement.  In fact, this revenue stream will not only increase revenues to the university and provide knowledge capital to businesses, it will also fund course improvement and new course development for the university.
  • Finally, walled gardens will no longer suffice. The continuing development of this knowledge economy will requires porous boundaries in all organizations.  What are the models by which this can be achieved and can this be one?

What is a Relationally Responsiveness Approach to Action (and Art)

“We must renounce our monological habits so that we might come to feel at home in the new artistic sphere which Dostoevsky discovered, so that we might orient ourselves in that incomparably more complex artistic model of the world which he created” (Bakhtin, 1984, p.272). Taken from the John Shotter Article (Draft), Organizing multi-voiced organizations.

The 20th Century’s industrial model of education thinks of us as living in a mostly dead and static world that only changes slowly, deliberately and in ways that we control.  Important knowledge is of the patterns and regularities that allow us to control change, to be the cogs that make the machine work.  But that does not seem to be our world.  The world Bakhtin and Shotter describe is dialogical.  Important knowledge is how to interact and create in a chiasmic world that is always changing; never the same from day to day, changing us as we change it.  Its is like writing a novel where all the characters act on their own volition, emotional and unpredictable, where life is an artistic creation in the highest sense.

How Dialogic Relationally Responsive Philosophy is Important to Learning

There’s been some discussion of a Harvard Business Review Article by Peter Bregman.  He describes a case where people were unresponsive to a new corporate learning process and he solved the problem by being flexible and allowing them to individualize the process.  Ken Allen was responding to this article which generated my though of how Bregman’ case was a good example of a relationaly responsive dialogical approach and I posted this comment.

Hi Ken

I look to dialogical philosophy (Wittgenstein, Bakhtin, John Shotter) not postmodernism to understand Bregman’s case.   (I’ve read critiques that the anguished postmoderns were as negatively obsessed with the lack of certainty as the moderns were obsessed to trying to obtain it.)  A dialogic approach looks at people as relationally responsive.

Instead of trying to solve problems exclusively by analyzing “patterns and regularities” for perfection, we must also live in “the context of peoples disorderly, everyday conversational realities. . . (where) to solve problems, our task becomes the more practical one of struggling to create new ‘pathways’ forward into the uniquely new circumstances we create for ourselves as we live our lives together”.

Quotes from the back cover of John Shotter’s book Conversational Realities Revisited

I had a mentor in college (Helmut Bartel) that once said new paradigms were only successful if they could account for the successes and the failures of the old paradigm, while moving beyond it.  That’s what I think the idea of dialogic responsiveness does.  In Bregman’s case we can see the failure of the company’s and Bregman’s first modernist approach and how Bregman succeeded by being more responsive to the involved people.  The recent idea of closing training departments can also be read in the same terms of the failure of modernism (prescribed ‘one size fits all’ instruction based on observed patterns and regularities) for the dialogical (facilitating the ability of people to work together to solve problems in people’s everyday context).

Thanks for your post.  I struggle to understand philosophy that I know is important, but I can’t alway articulate just how.  I just grown by responding to your conversation and I am learning in dialogue right now.  And, I think my brain is completely fried for the moment.

A need for value with tenure

Yesterday I felt the need to support an instrumentalist view of education in response to Stanley Fish and Frank Donoghue.  Today I’m exploring thoughts on their primarily premise, that tenured professors are a dying breed and this fact is leaving education in lesser hands.

The cost of education is very high. Too many people need to mortgage their future to secure their future.  Beginning to address this issue will mean tenured professors and administrators must leave their walled-departmental-gardens.  From a business standpoint (and unless you are willing to work pro-bono, everyone should have some type of business perspective) administrator, professors and everyone involved need to account for how they add value to a students education, find new ways to add value, and understand how much that value costs.  Many professors are concerned with little more than delivering their course load and completing their (tenure hoop jumping) research projects; many advisor focus less on mentoring and more on choosing courses and navigating bureaucracy.  Many administrators just seem totally bureaucratized.

I believe that tenure for intellectual educational purposes is important.  A lack of tenure would be lamentable, but value propositions, not tenure proposition, are needed to be a central role in determining professor valuations.  My graduate mentor once suggested that meet every three year to justify the continuation of their course.  I agreed at the time, but even more so now.  Things change so fast these days and so many people, even tenured professors, keep on teaching the way they were taught.